Part 5: Superior Motors
“When I was first introduced to Braddock, I immediately felt a very deep connection to the town and imagined what the downtown must have looked like in its prime,” says Kevin Sousa of the steel mill town Andrew Carnegie put on the map in 1872. “The place just struck a chord that continues to resonate because of where I grew up.” Sousa was raised in McKees Rocks, just outside Pittsburgh and not too far upriver from his current home in Braddock.
Having opened three Pittsburgh eateries within a two-year span—Salt of the Earth, Station Street Hot Dogs, and Union Pig and Chicken—Sousa was well on his way to fulfilling the dream of becoming a noted chef and restaurateur.
Fortified by the nostalgia and possibility of Braddock, Sousa made some life-changing decisions in pursuit of his new vision. He divested himself of his businesses (closing Salt and Station, and selling Union to employees), moved his family to Braddock, started a Kickstarter campaign that would get the project going (raising $310,000), and signed a long-term, no-cost lease for the Superior Motors building (Braddock’s mayor backs Sousa’s vision for his town 100 percent).
When up and running, Superior Motors will be much more than a restaurant, but “part of an established community-based ‘ecosystem’ that combines food, farming, art, history, industry, training, and lodging,” says Sousa. “It will also provide professional culinary training and opportunities at no cost to locals who will also receive a resident’s discount at Superior Motors. A big part of our mission is paying this forward for the young people in the community.”
There was a time not too long ago when Pittsburgh—surrounded by thriving suburbs and bustling towns—was the wealthiest city per capita in America. Sousa’s ambitious, holistic, thoughtful project will not rewrite history, but it will provide a vital path forward for a lot of people short on opportunity and long on hope. While you may have saved some potato scraps from the bin today to make a delicate brodo, Sousa is doing his damndest to save an entire town.
City: Braddock (9 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, north of the Monongahela River)
Industry Leader: Kevin Sousa
Number of Rust Belt Jobs Lost During the Decline of the Steel Industry: 250,000+
Number of Functioning Restaurants in Braddock’s Borders: 0
Distance to Closest Farm: 2 blocks
Farm Acreage: 2
Size of Rooftop Greenhouse: 1,000 square feet
Foot print of Superior Motors: 3,000 square feet
Cost of Long-term Lease for Superior Motors negotiated by Sousa: $0
Total Funds Raised During Kickstarter Campaign: $310,000 (exceeding goal by $50k)
Rank among the Most Funded Restaurant Projects on Kickstarter: 1
Cost of Sousa Family Home in Braddock: $600 (no zeroes missing), plus renovations
This concludes our 5-part series.